Channeling Your Inner Tortoise: Slowing Down to Reduce Stress

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” 

-Lao Tzu

Rushing can increase stress, interfere with meaningful communication, and reduce our capacity for pleasure and enjoyment. Although rushing is sometimes inevitable, constant pressure to rush from one thing to the next leads to chronic stress and burnout. Both our physical and mental health can begin to suffer as a result. Slowing down can significantly reduce our stress and lead to greater resilience and overall well-being.   

Practices for slowing down:

Consciously slow down your activity level by 25 percent. Bring your full attention to the pace of your actions. Notice when you are moving at 100 percent and intentionally slow down to 75 percent. Notice how it feels to move more gently and intentionally. 

Set aside additional time to complete a task. If you think you will need an hour to go grocery shopping, set aside two hours and allow yourself to approach the task at your leisure. Give yourself ample time to avoid feeling rushed. Take longer than necessary and ignore your watch.  

Give your phone a break. Practice resisting the urge to get on your phone for a few minutes each day or give your phone a time out. When you are waiting in line, riding an elevator, or eating lunch, try to resist the urge to take out your phone and start looking through email or social media. Attempt to sit with any feelings of impatience or boredom and resist the impulse to distract or engage in more work. Take a moment to relax your body and allow your stress to dissipate.  

Get Bored. Stepping away from complex tasks or social media and sitting around quietly or gazing out of the window actually allows more space for creativity. You might also consider finding several more mundane tasks and allowing yourself to embrace feelings of boredom as a way to slow down and sit with whatever thoughts and emotions arise. As you expand your capacity to sit with boredom, you may find that it not only gets easier, but that it can be enjoyable as you get a mental break from the stress of more demanding tasks.  

Momentary Connections. Slow down long enough to momentarily connect in a deeper way with everyone you meet. Imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes. Look them in the eyes and wish them a good day. Share a kind word of encouragement or a friendly smile.  

Mindful eating. Take time to eat more mindfully. Focus your attention on the food you are eating and slow down your pace. Notice the tastes and textures of your food. Add something enjoyable to your lunch and slow down again to pause and savor the tasty treat.  

Acting “as if.”  Acting “as if” is a powerful Adlerian and cognitive constructivist therapy intervention that can be applied to your daily life. Think about somebody you know who always seems calm and centered. You might also think of role model, favorite author, or spiritual leader. After bringing this person to mind and thinking about the way they approach the world, act as if you are this person. Pretend you are auditioning for a movie to play this person and give your best performance. Acting “as if” can begin to shift your thoughts, behaviors, perceptions, and emotions in a new direction of calm. 

Notice your environment. Slow down long enough to take note of a few things in your environment. Noticing sounds is a good place to start. Pause and sit silently for a moment while you note the sounds in your environment. Noticing light, reflections, and shadows are also fun and interesting ways to slow down and engage more intentionally as you ground yourself in your environment. 

Breathe from your diaphragm. Place your hand on your stomach and notice as it rises up and down slightly as you breathe. This practice slows down breathing and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system that produces a calm and relaxed state.  

Use imagery to connect with a calm and relaxing place. Close your eyes and imagine your favorite vacation spot, such as a warm sunny beach, calm lake, or a treasured hiking trail. Imagine all of the sights and sounds as well as the feeling of the warm sun and soft breeze. Allow yourself to relax and rest here in your imagination for a few minutes. 

Everyday Mindfulness. We can practice everyday mindfulness by bringing our attention more fully to the present moment and focusing on our senses in the here-and-now while completing everyday tasks. Much like mindful eating, you might try practicing mindfulness while taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Bring your attention to the warm and calming sensations of the water on your skin, the smell of the soap or shampoo, or the taste of the toothpaste. 

Take time to reflect. Start a gratitude journal or practice sharing your gratitude and appreciation with others at the end of a long day.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Published by tlindquistpsyd

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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